What are we learning?

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Time to do a stocktake on what we’re learning here. Una and I smiled when the boys yelled out an enthusiastic ‘Yay!’ when she announced we’d devote the first half of the lesson to the Flickr project.

Looking around the room, I saw heads bent down to view photos and comments, unmistakable eagerness in reading, eyes darting about from comment to comment, fingers working at top speed to keep up with written responses.

Yes, but is this learning?

Just in case any of us started to think this was just chat – not that we would – I thought I’d take stock of the types of learning happening here.

First of all, I think it needs to be stated at the outset that engagement is a healthy precursor to any kind of learning. Although this project has clear guidelines and timeline with weekly themes and questions to answer, there are obvious reasons for the engagement we are seeing:

  • peer audience
  • global connections
  • familiar ‘chat’ platform for communication
  • ease of communication through Flickr comments setup
  • transparency of all activity
  • cultural curiosity
  • natural desire to socialise with other young people wherever they are

As I’ve said previously, it’s a far cry from writing on a prescribed topic for the teacher. The themes and questions have been chosen to encourage sharing of background, passions, hobbies, etc., and the students want to write about themselves and their lives because it’s part of a natural desire to share these things in order to make meaningful contact with others.

Cultural curiosity sparks questions like ‘What is AFL?’  or ‘What is that fluffy thing?’ (dreamcatcher). The desire to connect is clearly demonstrated too – ‘I also love watching crime investigation shows’; ‘my parents are also the most influential people in my life’, etc.

The positive comments and encouragement the students give each other is good to see, and much more meaningful to them than any comments from their teacher. I find this heart warming, actually, and cling to it when I read all the negative press in the media about young people being bullied and abused by their peers online. I think we could organise more of these types of learning environments to bring out the best in our young people.

There’s much still to be discovered in this learning process, some of it related to the options within Flickr itself. For example, for now we haven’t too fussed about tagging or organising photos into sets. That will come, and some students will learn that themselves just by browsing the site. Then there’s the photographic aspect – so much to learn about the potential of a picture. Even within Flickr there is an editing button above the photo which takes you to Picnik where you can play around with the image.  When students think about how they want to present their picture, what message they are trying to convey – this is visual literacy. I expect initially they will be focussing on satisfying the weekly theme, but later they may think about creative elements such as focus, colour, texture and so on. The potential for differentiated learning exists both visually and within the written text.

I’m happy with the way things are going and I think my colleagues feels the same.

7 responses to “What are we learning?

  1. Pingback: Are we still learning? Global flickr project « Brave new world

  2. Tania
    This is simply brilliant!! Connections on so many levels – global, cultural, staff and students. There has been so much thought, collaboration and planning that has gone into this project. I will be watching your blog with great interest to see what happens as Through Global Lenses evolves…

    • Thankyou, Kim, and it’s so much fun – for students and for us in our collaboration. Pity we can’t fund more than one teacher in the classroom because collaborative teaching is so much richer.

  3. Pingback: Are we still learning? Global flickr project

  4. What a great post about our project – I’m so glad that you are so good at recording your thoughts …and I totally concur!

    I was just thinking about the impact the photos and writing have had on our students. I love that teachable moments, such as discussion about the differences between Fahrenheit and Celsius, seem to occur often! The awareness of both similarities and differences is a valuable lesson to learn, as well. Sometimes, I even see a glimpse of reflective writing!

    One of our prolific commenters today showed disappointment when no one commented on her photo, so I know the connections are very meaningful. We talked about the time differences again and that others may still comment in the future. And we also talked about the idea that some photos may not get comments, but not necessarily because of what was posted/described. Building in the chance to have these conversations with students will likely go a long way in future online communications – the project has been a springboard for digital citizenship/literacy.

    The project is so engaging that there have been many times when I’ve wanted to jump in and comment on student’s photos myself, but I think it is more effective to continue this as a student-to-student project. I have decided to start sending Flickr mail (in addition to the face-to-face feedback) to our students as a way to acknowledge their work.

    And Picnik… it is fantastic! 🙂

    Thanks again for documenting our project with this blog!

    • Thankyou for your positive comments, Marie, and great to hear about your observations. I love those glimpses of reflective writing. I feel the same way as you do about wanting to jump in and comment – especially when I see some of the enthusiastic writers who seem to share so much of themselves – but it’s best we stay out, I suppose.

      We had our house athletics competition last week so our time for writing and commenting was shortened. Sometimes these things happen, as with Sinikka going to Singapore, but I think the overall result is satisfying. Good idea about Flickr mail, as long as we remind them to check their inbox!

      Thankyou for your thoughts, and please feel free to write a post when you can.

  5. Pingback: Are we still learning? How did the presentations go? Tania Sheko’s Global Flickr project | Bright ideas

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